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d. 24 June 1794 in Montreal (Que.)


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GENAPLE DE BELLEFONDS, FRANÇOIS, carpenter, legal practitioner, jailer, process-server, acting clerk of court, royal notary, clerk of the chief road officer, subdelegate of the intendant, churchwarden, and seigneur; b. c. 1643, son of Claude Genaple and Catherine Coursier, of the parish of Saint-Merri in Paris; d. 6 Oct. 1709 at Quebec and buried the next day.

Genaple probably arrived in the colony in 1664 or a little before. He was then a carpenter. He settled at Sillery, on a piece of land 2 arpents by 60, which he had purchased from Jacques Le Meilleur on 24 Nov. 1665. A few months earlier, on 7 Aug. 1665, he had signed a marriage contract with Marie-Anne de La Porte, a Parisian like himself, and he had married her at Quebec on 12 October. Two of Genaple’s first three children were baptized at Sillery, and the last six at Quebec, where the family seems to have established itself towards the end of 1671 or in 1672, while keeping, at least until 1678, the property at Sillery. This land, situated on the Saint-Michel road, consisted of ten acres under cultivation in 1667 and was probably worked by tenant-farmers from 1672 on.

Genaple was fairly well educated. By giving up farming to go and live in the town, he probably hoped to work his way into colonial officialdom. He began modestly: on 11 Oct. 1673 Buade* de Frontenac, who apparently was protecting him, appointed him “process-server and royal serjeant-at-law serving the whole of Canada.” A year later, on 5 Nov. 1674, Genaple appeared before the Conseil Souverain for the first time as a legal practitioner. At about the same period he became jailer of the Quebec prisons; in any event he was occupying that post on 25 June 1675, and on occasion this position caused him difficulties to which we shall return later.

If his activities as process-server, jailer, and practitioner, combined perhaps with the occasional exercise of his craft as a carpenter, provided some kind of subsistence for his small family, Genaple nevertheless continued to seek some high office which might increase his income. In the autumn of 1673 fortune had seemed to smile on him. The notary Romain Becquet*, who had decided to resign, had agreed to make over his minutes to Genaple; consequently, on 18 Oct. 1673, Frontenac had granted the latter a commission as “royal notary and tabellion in the jurisdiction of the town of Quebec”; but on 21 November he had revoked this commission, probably as a result of opposition from the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales, either because it wanted to reserve the right to appoint notaries, or because it questioned the status of royal notary which notaries in the seigneurial jurisdiction of Quebec had enjoyed since Talon*’s time. In 1677 Genaple again encountered some opposition. It came this time from the court officers of the Conseil Souverain, who were then at loggerheads with those of the provost court of Quebec, and who criticized Genaple for discharging two incompatible functions, those of process-server and jailer. Indeed, the law forbad this pluralism. But the Conseil Souverain failed to give an opinion on this particular aspect of the question, and Genaple escaped with no more than a fright. It was only five years later – ten years after he established himself at Quebec – that he was finally able to realize his ambition of becoming a notary: on 9 April 1682 Becquet sold him his minutes for 500 livres, on condition that he was received as a notary before All Saints’ day; Intendant de Meulles appointed him royal notary on 22 October to replace Becquet, who had died at the end of April.

Shortly before 1685 certain intrigues had formed around Gilles Rageot*, with the object of taking away from him his office as clerk of the provost court of Quebec and giving it to the ambitious Genaple. Intendant de Meulles appears to have been the instigator of the affair. Having obtained from the king a blank clerk of court’s commission, he, on 10 March 1685, certainly entered Genaple’s name on it, to replace Rageot, “[whose] infirmities,” he asserted, “have rendered [him] incapable of serving.” Rageot, it is true, “was subject to epileptic fits,” but that had not prevented him from discharging his duties since 1666, when he was already suffering from this disease. The evicted clerk of court took his case to the Conseil Souverain, which after having admitted Genaple to his office changed its mind, and decided to write to the king on Rageot’s behalf. While awaiting the court’s orders, the council insisted that the records and archives of the provost court be deposited in a cupboard with two locks, of which Rageot had one key and Genaple the other, and that the first continue to make out the writs in his own hand whereas Genaple would sign them, Rageot receiving three quarters of the emoluments and Genaple only one quarter, as a fee for signing. This ruling after the manner of Solomon prevailed until 24 Sept. 1686; on that day Rageot was reinstated in his office following a new commission which had been signed by the king on 24 (or 29) May and which at the same time cancelled that given to Genaple.

From 1690 on at least, and until his death, Genaple was clerk of the chief road officer of New France. The administrative importance of this office was all the greater because the official in charge of the roads system, the Sieur Pierre Robinau de Bécancour, was often conspicuous by his protracted absences. In 1695 Genaple was churchwarden of the parish council of Quebec, and in 1701 churchwarden in charge. Finally, on 16 May 1706, he was appointed subdelegate of the intendant, Antoine-Denis Raudot, “to settle,” in the latter’s absence, “matters which may arise in the Compagnie de la Colonie in this country.” Churchwarden in charge, the intendant’s subdelegate, here at last was something to give some prestige to a man who arrived in the colony as a carpenter, was all his life jailer of the Quebec prisons, and had scarcely performed anything but tasks that were relatively obscure or that – like the notariat – conferred no right to the honours to which at that time people were so partial. True, on 25 Feb. 1690, after requesting it from Frontenac, our jailer had acquired the enviable title of seigneur of Longues-Vues, a piece of land situated on the Saint John River in Acadia. This land, granted with rights of justice, apparently remained uncultivated, Genaple contenting himself with his new-found and slightly gratuitous designation of seigneur.

In 1692 Genaple had drawn attention upon himself by raising before the Conseil Souverain the question of inventories. This matter, long since settled in France, had not been regulated in any way in the colony. Consequently the lieutenants general and the king’s attorneys of the three royal jurisdictions assumed the right of drawing up inventories. Genaple knew his authorities – he possessed in fact a certain number of law books – and basing himself on French jurisprudence he addressed a petition to the council. “As early as the year 1317,” he said, “it was enacted and ordained by edict of the king that only notaries were empowered to make inventories and divisions of property, all officers of justice being forbidden to undertake the same.” After a long historical account Genaple concluded that it was only inventories and divisions that had been “ordered by a verdict after full argument on both sides and after being contested before the court and without misrepresentation [that fall] to the judge . . . and when it [is] a question of right of aubaine, default of heirs, and vacant property.” Genaple therefore asked that only notaries be authorized to make inventories and divisions of property, save in the exceptional cases covered by French law. This well documented petition remained unanswered. It was not until 1708 that the council decided that inventories should be made “concurrently” by lieutenants general and notaries “according as they shall be required from them.”

In spite of the fact that in the second half of his career Genaple held positions of some importance, one cannot avoid the impression that he always remained first and foremost a jailer. He lived with his family in the prisons of the intendant’s palace, and that in the long run was enough to affect his character and mark him profoundly. His task was moreover a thankless one: several times he was reprimanded by the Conseil Souverain for having let prisoners escape; furthermore, he had differences with the officers of justice, particularly with Louis-Théandre Chartier* de Lotbinière in the La Corruble affair. The atmosphere in which he lived daily, the difficulties that he experienced in making his way in Quebec officialdom, the numerous setbacks that he suffered, among which the escapes were not the least important, all this embittered the ex-carpenter, the more so because he found himself powerless to keep in the path of virtue his own son Jean-François, who became involved in some shady affairs and even served a term in prison. Genaple’s bitterness caused him on occasion to use immoderate language, particularly in 1685 and 1701, when he showed disrespect towards the governor general. In both cases he was forced to make a formal apology before the council and to offer his excuses to the governor.

On Genaple’s death, which occurred on 6 Oct. 1709, his widow inherited his minutes. According to custom she was entitled to deliver copies of them for payment. Neither this occasional activity nor her occupation of midwife could assure her a livelihood, however, for Genaple had left her only “little wealth.” Therefore she obtained from the intendant, on 26 Jan. 1710, permission to succeed her husband as keeper of the prisoners in the intendant’s palace, her son Joseph, “who lives with her in the said prisons,” agreeing to answer for her. She married René Hubert on 22 Nov. 1711 at Quebec, where she was buried on 28 June 1718.

André Vachon

AJQ, Greffe de Pierre Duquet, 7 août 1665; Greffe de Michel Fillion, 24 nov. 1665; Greffe de François Genaple, 1682–1709; Greffe de Gilles Rageot, 9 avril 1682. AQ, NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 174, 2606; NF, Ins. Cons. sup., II, 44v et seq., 52, 92v et seq., 108; NF, Ins. de la Prév. de Québec, I, 260, 261, 264, 445; NF, Ord. des int., I, 46; IV, 7v et seq. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1942–43, 402. Claude Dablon, “Aveu et dénombrement de la seigneurie de Sillery pour les Révérends Pères Jésuites (1678),” APQ Rapport, 1943–44, 15. Jug. et délib., I-IV. Ord. comm. (P.-G. Roy), I, 151f., 153f., 155f.; II, 9–11, 92. Pièces et documents relatifs à la tenure seigneuriale, [II], 396f. Recensements du Canada, 1666 (APQ Rapport); 1667, 1681 (Sulte). A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., VII, 1–192. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, IV, 44. Gareau, “La prévôté de Québec,” 112. “Les notaires au Canada,” 25f. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 262. Vachon, “Inv. critique des notaires royaux,” RHAF, IX (1955–56), 432f. J.-E. Roy, Histoire du notariat, I. P.-G. Roy, Toutes petites choses du régime français (2v., Québec, 1944), I, 122f., 210f. Vachon, Histoire du notariat, 22f., 39. “La bibliothèque de François Genaple,” BRH, XLIV (1938), 143. “La discipline d’autrefois,” BRH, XXXVII (1931), 352f.

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Cite This Article

André Vachon, “GENAPLE DE BELLEFONDS, FRANÇOIS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 24, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/genaple_de_bellefonds_francois_2E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/genaple_de_bellefonds_francois_2E.html
Author of Article:   André Vachon
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1969
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   June 24, 2024